Street politics is the modern urban theater of contention par excellence [...] Simultaneously social and spatial, constant and current, a place of both, the familiar and the stranger, the visible and the vocal, the street represents a complex entity wherein sentiments and outlook are formed, spread and expressed in a unique fashion.
Edition limited to 250 numbered copies
Pdf can be downloaded (free) here
Purchased at Publish & Be Damned.
text reference typography: Alison Barnes de certeau graffiti library st Bride typography
leave a comment
‘In a city that belongs to no-one, people are constantly seeking to leave a trace of themselves…’ (Sennett 1990:205)
Graffiti, by its very nature, is inevitably temporary type. Whether due to chemical cleansing agents deployed by local councils and property owners, or simply the effect of the wind and rain over time, at some point, it will, sooner or later, disappear.
The word graffiti means ‘little scratchings’ and it comes from the Italian graffiare, which means to scratch and for thousands of years ancient cultures have engaged in this form of written expression. (Reisner 1971; Abel & Buckley 1977). When studied, the older examples of graffiti have often been used to provide insights into society – Pompeii being an obvious example (Abel & Buckley 1977:4). There is something about graffiti in this context that is somehow acceptable – visitors to Pompeii don’t complain that the graffiti is destroying the landscape they simply view it as part of the history of the place. In the case of the Berlin wall, graffiti has actually been ascribed value, with the pieces of the wall available for purchase that have graffiti on them fetching higher prices than those that don’t (Cavan 1995:4).
Urban space and everyday life
Urban spaces are in a continual state of flux; permanence is impossible. The inhabitants, their lives and their territorial markings are temporary. The city is being continually rewritten—like a palimpsest—layer upon layer, never quite wiping the slate clean.
The ‘messages’ embedded in the landscape can be read as signs about values, beliefs and practices and geographers have begun to see the potential in reading the landscape and refer to its biography (Jackson, 1989:173). Michel de Certeau drew many analogies between the city, its inhabitants and their movements and the practice of writing and speaking. He saw the inhabitants of the city as ‘writing an urban text’ as they move through it (de Certeau, 1984:97).
The Situationists were profoundly influenced by Lefbvre’s writings and they were determined to penetrate the outward, spectacular, commercialized signs of mass culture and explore its interior by examining everyday patterns of life, in particular people’s use of buildings and urban space. By using the methodology of the Situationists and charting ‘signs’ that are usually unseen, informal or even illicit—in this case graffiti—rather than the ubiquitous golden arches or neon coca cola signs, one can perhaps begin to read a text of a less homogenous, global nature. One that is perhaps more local in its outlook on occasion, but one that is nonetheless still capable of delivering insights that reach further than its literal and physical city boundaries.
“For semiotics, on the other hand, the message is a construction of signs which, through interacting with the receivers, produce meanings. The sender, defined as transmitter of the message, declines in importance. The emphasis shifts to the text and how it is ‘read’. And reading is the process of discovering meanings that occurs when the reader interacts or negotiates with the text. This negotiation takes place as the reader brings aspects of his or her cultural experience to bear upon the codes and signs which make up the text. It also involves some shared understanding of what the text is about. We have only to see how different papers report the same event differently to realize how important is this understanding, this view of the world, which each paper shares with its readers. So readers with different social experiences or from different cultures may find different meanings in the same text. This is not, as we have said, necessarily evidence of communication failure.
The message, then, is not something sent from A to B, but an element in a structured relationship whose other elements include external reality and the producer/reader. Producing and reading the text are seen as parallel, if not identical, processes in that they occupy the same place in this structured relationship. We might model this structure as a triangle in which the arrows represent constant interaction; the structure is not static but a dynamic practice.”
curation everyday Reading text reference: Nicolas Bourriaud
leave a comment